When it comes to being beloved in the metal community, few bands are as universally revered as Iron Maiden. When it comes to bands that are as revered as Maiden and still producing high quality albums, Maiden stands alone. Nearly twenty-five years after releasing their breakout album The Number of the Beast which, not coincidentally, was the first featuring lead singer Bruce Dickinson, Iron Maiden continues to tour the world putting on quality shows, in addition to quality albums. On a personal level while Metallica’s Black Album is the album that made me interested in metal it was Iron Maiden’s 1984 album Powerslave that cemented my love for the genre. Yet what is it about Maiden that has allowed them to cross generations and continue to have the support of fans to this day. It is a combination of features including high quality music, accessibility, their live shows, remaining badasses to this day, and never doing anything to truly pissing off their fans.
Without good music, there is nothing and Iron Maiden has provided it. Even during the Paul Di’Anno (Iron Maiden’s original lead singer) years, Iron Maiden had great songs. It is something that they’ve always had, and this is where the appeal starts. Some of their albums are pure classics with every track an amazing one such as Powerslave, while some make up half a great album before falling off a bleeping cliff, Piece of Mind, I’m looking at you, but the music is there. From their famous twin lead guitars to the lyrics to Bruce Dickinson’s singing few bands have released so many legitimately classic songs. I may be sick to death of “Run to the Hills”, but it’s still a great song. When they released epic songs, the songs deliver. In particular, “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is over ten minutes long and is amazing. It never seems to drone, but tells a clear and concise story. When they reunited with Bruce Dickenson after the dark years of the 1990s without him, a decade where they still never released an album as bad as St. Anger, they came out with kick ass songs like the “Wicker Man” on the Brave New World album is better than ninety percent of bands will ever release.
While still being hard and clearly metal, the music of Iron Maiden is very accessible to new fans. I love Slayer as much as the next metal fan, but their music is for hardcore metalheads. It is hard, and raw and completely inaccessible. Maiden on the other hand never loses the melody. They have the ability to open up doors to new fans by still being clearly, undeniably, awesomely metal while not turning off new fans by going too far. The fact that they did this while not annoying hardcore metal fans is astounding. Metal eats its own, but because there is still an edge to Maiden, while having the melody that allows new fans to listen to it. Listen to The Trooper. It has the metalness with the pounding bass and amazing guitars. That said, there’s a very clear melody. You can follow the song and it doesn’t sound like two animals trying to kill each other like anything as hard or harder than Slayer. A new fan can get into this music and then journey into harder music. This aspect cannot be understated. Iron Maiden is a perfect gateway metal. All of this is before getting into their live shows.
In their mid-fifties, Iron Maiden is still putting on stupidly good live shows. Live, there is simply no band like Iron Maiden. As this review of the 2013 Iron Maiden show in St. Louis that I was at can attest to, Bruce Dickinson is still moving around like a man in his mid-twenties. It is insane to see a human being as old as he is run around like a mad man, still hitting notes that he hit in his twenties and giving every single ounce of energy as he possibly can. Fans can, have, and always will appreciate that. That’s not all that makes Iron Maiden a great live act though. Starting with “Somewhere Back in Time” tour, Iron Maiden has smartly mixed up normal tours where they play their entire catalog, including a lot of newer songs, along with tours that only play classic songs. Iron Maiden refuses to be held back by their history live, but also isn’t running away from it. They smartly understand that fans often just want to hear the classics and are not afraid to give them a concert filled with those songs. That said, they also take pride in their new music so play the songs live. Their willingness to do both kinds of tours is a big reason why fans love them.
On a different, more basic level, Iron Maiden is a badass band that transcends their music. It starts with lead sing Bruce Dickinson. The man turned down an offer to be on England’s 1984 Olympic fencing team to continue touring with Iron Maiden. Let me repeat this: Iron Maiden’s lead singer is such an amazing swordsman that he may be the only person in the history of the modern Olympics to turn down an offer to go to them because he had something better to do. Not only that, but the man is a licensed pilot who will fly their jet (oh yeah, Iron Maiden has their own jet) Ed Force One when he feels like it. Some metal guys like to pretend to be all around badasses, Dickinson simply is one. Then there is Eddy, their zombie mascot. A logo so cool that he allows the band to avoid being on their album covers. An animatronic Eddy makes appearances during their live shows and it is a highlight.
Finally, Iron Maiden has remained loyal to their fans. Quite frankly this paragraph could be described as the “why Iron Maiden is more beloved than Metallica” paragraph, and that would be an accurate description. During the height of Napster, Iron Maiden never felt the need to sue their fans, even though they would have been in the right. Maiden never felt the need to film a documentary of them going through group therapy which is about the least metal thing any band could do. They also never released an album as godawful as St. Anger. I point out all of these things to make one thing clear, while the other biggest metal band in the world has spent a long time trying to turn their fans against them, Iron Maiden hasn’t. All Maiden has done is gone out, release awesome music, and continue to be awesome. For that, we can all be thankful.